Let's start the conversation about multi-generational homes

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The December Tuesday post is entirely dedicated to questions I’ve been receiving while out meeting new people or interesting client design dilemmas. Follow Kalli George Interiors and don’t miss these posts. I’ve made it easy – they all come down the pipe at 9:59am on Tuesday. Easy – right?

Anyway, the last couple of weeks, I’ve been focusing on multi-generational homes. Even had a seminar at the Swansea Town Hall!

So why am I focusing on multi-generational homes right now? Well, because I’ve been in a few multi-generational homes where everybody is crammed into one space. The living room is shared, so no private meetings with friends. There is a worrying shortage of bathrooms and the homes are disorganized.

For me that’s an explosive situation waiting to happen. Renovating kitchens and bathrooms with newer tile isn’t going to make the space more livable. Sharing closets only exacerbates the lack of storage problem. And finally, chaos reigns in the corner office.

On the other hand, I had the pleasure of working with a client who anticipated this living arrangement. They were fortunate enough to design build. So, a large portion of the design and planning phase was devoted to creating a phenomenal space for everyone.

A Historical Perspective

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I grew up in a neighbourhood where kids had their parents and grandparents at their disposal. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up with my grandparents nearby. I had to get on a plane to visit them. Yes….I know…they lived on the island of Crete…beaches…mountains. Woe is me - right?

Here’s the thing…for an old couple they were really cool. He was a stodgy older gentleman. My grandmother on the other hand, was a smiling jovial older lady who knew exactly how to handle him. Ahhhh memories….ok back to multi-generational homes…..

So back in Montreal….in the Plateau to be exact…we lived in what Montrealers’ call a duplex. Two self-contained apartments connected by an exterior staircase. Gorgeous, to look at in the summer. Perilous, if not careful in the winter. We had the 2nd level of a gorgeous prewar duplex we co-owned with my aunt and uncle. I have first-hand experience about taking a tumble straight to the bottom. Ouch!

With a duplex, there was a sense of privacy despite the unlocked door. The apartment was your own. Decorated and furnished to your taste with your memories interspersed throughout. It’s your own home with an all access pass granted to your family.

Present Day

Fast forward to today. The multi-generational home has evolved to one large home. Where it is not possible to custom design build everyone crams into one space and shares everything. Worryingly, when custom design is possible, again one large dwelling is preferred with a traditional setup.

Although, the very nature of the duplex is ‘living on top of each other’ the present day scenario is a more apt description.

A multi-generational home can have many definitions:

  • Aging parents moving in with their children

  • A married adult child moving in to save money for a house

  • Young-ish grandparents moving in to help with the grandchildren and help their children move up the corporate ladder

Each situation has it’s own challenges and pitfalls. Some are short to medium term commitments. Others are long term and have long lasting implications. For example, an adult child and their partner could live in a finished basement. Aging parents on the other hand may have trouble navigating stairs therefore, a main floor living arrangement is more suitable.

Navigating through these situations is like a domino game.

  • Assign the basement to the married couple, but where do you now entertain when main floor space is at a premium?

  • The aging parents need main level accommodations, so which rooms do you sacrifice and still feel like you have all the add-ons of a home?

  • Your parents are active seniors who like to entertain. The living room is your office and the family room is always cluttered with baby toys.

And on and on it goes………

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start with a design concept & floorplan

Unlike children, adults inherently crave privacy to do their own thing. Whether entertaining friends, meeting with a business colleague, or simply attempting to read a book, they need a place to escape. This desire is always simmering below the surface. Even the most extroverted, bubbly personality needs their own space.

And that can only begin with a well thought out interior design concept and floor plan. Plans which create a home suitable for everyone. Some sacrifices will be required. However, no one would feel trampled upon for someone else. It’s pretty safe to say “my way or the highway” would not be in the spirit of a multi-generational home.

Next week, universally designed kitchens! Until then, have fun, and don’t forget to contact me with your questions.

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P.S. Just in case you missed the link above, here it is again.